Oakfield commemorates 25th anniversary of tornado

Local News

FOND DU LAC COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV)- Oakfield is commemorating the 25th anniversary of a tornado that ripped through the village in 1996.

It caused nearly $40 million in damages and 12 people were injured. Everybody survived the storm though.

“It’s part of history especially for the village of Oakfield and we need to educate younger people who don’t know what happened,” says Oakfield’s former fire chief Gary Collien.

Collien was Oakfield’s fire chief when the tornado hit. Gary Zielicke was the village’s police chief. Both men were in Oakfield today to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the storm. Today was sunny with no clouds in the sky, much nicer weather than on this same day 25 years ago.

“It was a huge funnel cloud, it was wide on the bottom and it was gray you could see the debris going up through the cloud as it passed different houses,” says Zielicke.

Both men say seeing the damage to the village after the tornado hit was surreal.

“It looked like a twilight zone, vehicles hanging from trees, trees snapped off, houses twisted and destroyed,” says Collien.

Both Zielke and Collien say what also struck them about the situation is how the village came together, rebuilt, and moved on with their lives.

Today the village came together to remember and commemorate the 25th anniversary of the tornado with a parade and barbecue.

Elsie Redman is 101 years old, making her the oldest survivor of the tornado. She still lives in Oakfield and remembers that day 25 years ago.

“(The town) was a mess, trees were down, (my) car was out in the field,” says Redman.

She says a cement squirrel was the only item in her house that survived the tornado.

“It sat on the porch and never moved,” says Redman. 

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